Listen Up Philip Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce. Directed by Alex Ross Perry. Not rated. Available on Video on Demand.
Philip Lewis Friedman is both a literary genius and a horrible human being, and as played by Jason Schwartzman in Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip, he’s also hilariously fascinating. Rude, egotistical and off-putting, Philip clings desperately to his status as a rising literary star, using it as a bludgeon with nearly everyone in his life. That includes his fed-up photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss) as well as various other women whom Philip simultaneously intrigues and repulses (at one point he inspires an ex-girlfriend to literally run away from him).
With its dry humor, New York City intellectual setting and omniscient third-person narration (from Eric Bogosian), Listen Up Philip recalls Woody Allen, and its scathing portrait of an entitled narcissist is reminiscent of Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg. Perry does well by his influences, adding his own grubby style (lots of uncomfortable close-ups) to the mix and delivering a movie that’s incisive, brutal and often very funny, with generosity to its entire range of characters (especially the women Philip treats so poorly). As Philip alienates more and more people in his life, the movie stalls a bit, leading to a rather abrupt conclusion, but that refusal to conform to expectations is part of the movie’s prickly charm.